Qur’an Stories: The Gardens of Saba

Long ago, before the birth of Prophet Isa(Alayhi salaam), there lived in the ancient lands of Yemen the rich and powerful people of Saba(Sheba).

The largest city of the region was Marin. For about 1000 years the area became more wealthy and reached its peak, as the people of Saba expanded their trade through land and sea routes.

Marib was an ancient city, about 50 miles from the present city of Sana. It was an old frankincense route between Arabia and Syria. Through Syria, it connected with the great and flourishing kingdoms of the great Roman empire around the Mediterranean. At the other end asking the Yemen coast, the road connected by sea transport with India, Malaysia and China.

The people of Saba are very hardworking. They constructed a huge dam that was called the Marib dam or sad al-Marib. It took years to construct it and the dam was about two miles long and 120 ft high. The people of Saba with their great skills made it into the best example of engineering of their time.

The dam brought great wealth to the area. They made roads and canals and the canals were bordered by gardens on both sides.

The trees and bushes of the lush green gardens and orchards were laden with fruits. The gardens and fields, well watered by streams, produced a wide variety of fruits spices and frankincense.

All worldly progress is achieved thanks to the help which Allah has given us. Without His blessings, we cannot achieve any success. So whenever we are successful, we should say “Thank You” to Allah for His help and remain humble and down-to-earth.

But the people of Saba, instead of being thankful to Allah, chose to become arrogant. They thought that all the progress and riches they enjoyed were due to the clever planning of their forefathers, who so ably built the great dam of Marib. They forgot to thank Allah. They become proud and haughty.

Allah does not like arrogant people who do not thank Him. So during the seventh century A.D., when the pent-up waters of the eastern side of the Yemen highlands were collected in a high lake held back by the Dam of Marib, the wall of the dam began to crack.

A mighty flood came and the dam burst, and it has never been repaired since. This was a great crisis which brought on the slow downfall of the country.

The flourishing gardens of Saba were left to turn into a waste land. The luscious fruit trees became wild, and gave place to wild plants with bitter fruit. The feathery leaves tamarisk,which I only good for twigs and wattle work, replaced the sweet smelling plants and flowers. Wild and stunted kinds of thorny bushes, like the wild Lote tree, which were good for neither fruit nor shade, grew in place of the pomegranates, the date palms, and the grape vines.

The punishment of the people of Saba was an example to all mankind. It reminds us that we should be thankful to Allah for His blessings and never become arrogant and proud over our success. All success comes only from Allah.

“[By] that We repaid them because they disbelieved. And do We [thus] repay except the ungrateful?” 34:17